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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL)

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Minnesota House Passes Judiciary and Civil Law Budget Bill

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Saint Paul, MN. – Today the Minnesota House of Representatives passed SF 2909, the Judiciary and Public Safety budget bill. With significant investments in public defense and civil legal services, an increase in juror pay, expanded hate and discrimination data tracking, the creation of an Office of Appellate Counsel, and the elimination of court document fees, the Judiciary portion of the bill is building a system that will more equitably serve the people of Minnesota. 

“I’m proud of what the Judiciary Committee has accomplished this session, focusing on reducing systemic inequities in Minnesota’s justice system. The investments we are making today will improve outcomes for Minnesotans for years to come,” said Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL - Roseville) Chair of the Judiciary and Civil Law Committee. “I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to send a strong, impactful bill to the Governor’s desk.”

The budget adequately funds Minnesota’s public defense system to ensure that everyone can receive their Constitutionally protected right to legal representation. Underfunding public defense disproportionately affects low-income, BIPOC, and rural Minnesotans. Our bill also ensures Minnesotans will receive legal help when they need it most by improving funding for Civil Legal Services. Whether it’s assistance accessing protections from domestic violence or help addressing unfair treatment in housing or employment, these services help Minnesotans no matter their income.

“As a constitutional branch of government, it is critical that we properly fund the Judiciary, and ensure Minnesotans are treated fairly and justly,” said Speaker Melissa Hortman. “Our budget addresses inequities in our justice system and helps Minnesotans receive legal help when they need it most. Minnesota’s criminal and civil legal systems need to work effectively and fairly for victims, the accused, and civil litigants.”

Minnesota has strong civil rights laws, but those rights are only meaningful if they’re protected via enforcement. This budget delivers a transformational investment in the Minnesota Department of Human Rights to combat hate and discrimination. With these funds, MDHR will be able to take unprecedented action against pervasive discriminatory practices making Minnesota a state where all human rights are protected.

“While the Constitution guarantees legal representation in criminal matters, there are very limited circumstances in which a person has a right to a lawyer in a civil case, leaving millions of people with no other option than to navigate the civil justice system alone,” said House Majority Leader Jamie Long. “This is a dire situation. Current program levels help less than half of Minnesotans who are eligible, and these Minnesotans are disproportionately low income and from communities of color. That’s why we are making historic investments in this budget to expand assistance and make sure more Minnesotans are able to access these services. This is about equity and racial justice.”

Lastly, the bill eliminates the court records fee, which will allow for greater public access to these records, a change that is supported by a broad coalition of legal organizations and media outlets. Current statute requires courts to charge $8 for a copy of an uncertified court record for any civil or criminal case.

Video of the floor debate will be uploaded to the House Information Youtube page. The spreadsheet of complete investments for the Public Safety and Judiciary budget can be downloaded here